We like things neat and tidy, organized and clean. Does that apply to God as well? I heard a priest say one time that we tend to put Jesus in a box and when we hear or see something that does not fit our neat and tidy image of Him, we downplay it or discard it. That is often the case with Gospels like today’s. Jesus’ words seem harsh and foreboding. They don’t fit the loving image we have of Him so we whitewash them or explain them away and dilute them, but Jesus is direct.
The analogies He uses to describe His warnings are ones of expectation. To proceed with building a tower or to march against a foe without knowing what to expect, and planning accordingly, would be folly. To avoid such a catastrophe, Jesus is enlightening us on what to expect when we decide to follow Him. He is preparing us for the difficulties of a holy life, one separated from worldly expectations and closer to God’s ways.
St. Paul echoes these thoughts in his letter to Philemon. He is asking his friend to go against the grain and accept his slave’s return in the same way the father receives the prodigal son. He asks that Onesimus not be treated harshly for leaving, but that he be welcomed back as a brother, as a member of the family. That may not be the way of the world, but it is God’s way.
To renounce possessions and hate father, mother, wife or children is difficult, nearly impossible. We cannot conceive of doing these things and yet, that is what it means to carry our cross. God comes first, everything centers around Him and we must disassociate ourselves from those worldly attachments that burden or hamper our journey toward God. Yes, we can never give up trying to call friends and family back to God’s ways but we must do so without compromising our relationship with God. He works in ways we do not understand. In our own “way of the cross” we can only trust Him and His ways for we cannot conceive what He intends.